The USGA and R&A announced sweeping alterations to the Rules of Golf on March 1, set to take effect in 2019. For many around the game, this update was long overdue. One needed to pass the bar to under the legalese of the rule book, and a number of the sport's regulations and ordinances were antiquated, illogical and borderline unfair.
Yet, did the overhaul go far enough, or was this merely a public-relations grab? Are the rules now understandable to all, or just slightly less complicated? And what did the USGA and R&A leave on the table that still warrants modification? We asked the Golf Digest community for its reaction to the new Rules of Golf. Here are the results.
What's your general impression of the proposed changes to the Rules of Golf?
Our readers were given three options: "Step in right direction," "Not enough," or "Hurts golf's integrity." By a whopping 74 percent, the winner was "Step in the right direction."
Personally, I'm astonished at such high grades. Not that the USGA and R&A don't deserve passing marks. Rather, the USGA is still nursing a bruised reputation following the events at Oakmont and CordeValle last summer, and golf fans tend to have a long memory when it comes to such (perceived) offenses. Moreover, Twitter in general has a negative, pessimistic outlook, so the notion that the new rules were viewed in such a positive fashion is a victory for golf's governing bodies.
In a related note, 14 percent claimed the new rules hurt golf's integrity? There's a high probability Johnny Miller voted early and often.
What change are you most encouraged/excited by?
The four choices: "Drop from any distance," "Repairing spike marks," "Ground club in hazard," and "Leave pin in to putt." While there was a favorite, the margins were relatively slim:
This was a bit of a head-scratcher, as spike marks are not necessarily an issue of the present outside of professional tournaments (even then, the problem has been alleviated considerably). Grounding your club in the hazard -- while not making the game easier, per se -- does help eliminate some of the ambiguity and murkiness surrounding players accidentally making contact in areas of trouble.
And golfers must really abhor taking the flag out and putting it back, for this rule -- considered by some a throw-in -- garnered nearly a fifth of the vote. That, or our collective back woes are worse than imagined.
What rule would you like to see addressed that wasn't?
Finally, a question where players can air their complaints. The options: "Shots from divot," "Mud balls," "Bifurcation" and "Other." Not necessarily a shocker, but "Shots from divot" was the runaway winner:
Sadly, speaking with people "in the know," I don't think you're ever going to see relief from a divot. It remains arguably one of the biggest disconnects between the USGA/R&A and the public, as the latter views a change as common sense while the other, uh, does not.
To provide relief in that situation would really challenge that principle of play the ball as it lies, explained Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules during his appearance on the Golf Digest Podcast last week.
Though hearing such a proclamation is disappointing and frustrating on varying levels, the recent edict offers hope that the USGA and R&A can change their ways. And remember, the rules don't apply for another two years. If there's a DJ-Oakmontesque situation with a divot, who know what the horizon may bring.